Helping OPSEU prevent workplace harassment

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) represents 130,000 members across Ontario, two-thirds of whom are women. In anticipation of Ontario’s new Bill 132, the Sexual Violence and Harassment Plan Act (Supporting Survivors and Challenging Sexual Violence and Harassment), OPSEU is training all staff on sexual harassment to promote harassment-free workplaces across the province.

That’s where Acart was able to help. With our background in anti-harassment social marketing campaigns about elder abuse awareness and prevention for the the Government of Canada and harassment intervention for York Region Transit, we were more than ready to take on the complex issues around problematic workplace behaviour.

Our first mandate was to create greater empathy in the workplace between and for victims, bystanders, and even perpetrators of sexual harassment.

Following extensive research into the subject, we determined that most people’s reaction to harassment is confusion: the victim tends to blame herself; the abuser isn’t necessarily aware of his negative effects on others; and the bystander doesn’t know whether to intervene or not.

We created a scenario in which viewers are put “inside the head” of each of the players in an all-too-familiar workplace scenario.

(Note that these videos are part of a comprehensive training program, and there is a short pause between each of the three scenarios.)

Following a very favourable reaction to these videos at OPSEU, the union asked Acart to create a sequel to address another urgent harassment issue: harmful workplace gossip.

Conducting further academic and marketing research on the subject of gossip, our strategic insight was that gossip — like sexual harassment — is an expression of power over other people. The gossiper demonstrates his or her dominance by sharing privileged information, and also by subtly threatening the receiver with the possibility of being gossiped about as well. And once again, the call-to-action was about appropriate intervention.

This video has two parts: the scenario and the victim’s experience.

In a press release, OPSEU states that The Ministry of Labour has called these new new training videos “cutting edge,” and has requested the materials be shared with the Ontario government.

While results from an internal HR campaign will take some time to evaluate, we’re already proud of how these videos have met with such a positive response.

We’re also proud of how we are evolving our process for creating Change Marketing campaigns.

We approached this campaign a little differently than usual, as both the client and the victims of these forms of harassment are overwhelmingly female. An all-woman creative team developed the initial concepts, with male team members (myself included) joining at a second stage to ensure that male characterizations were also realistic.

meeting acart

This project also featured the directorial debut of Acart’s own Emmanuelle Coutu, who in addition to being a Copywriter and Production Coordinator at Acart, has an extensive professional background on stage.

Emma Directing

Congratulations to the whole team! And thanks to Videographer/DP Karl Roeder and photographer Jessica Deeks (whose work on campaign posters we will cover in a later post.)

Most of all, thank you OPSEU for this opportunity to make a difference!

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